Nestled between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, climbers can be assured that Vermont’s largest city has plenty to offer those looking to get out for a day or even just a couple of hours of trad or sport. Here are five of the most easily accessible, fun, and varied crags you’ll find in the Burlington area.
Let’s start in Bolton, a tiny Vermont town with all of 900 residents that sits 25 minutes south of Burlington. What it lacks in size, it makes up for with its climbing, as it's home to eight different crags and hundreds of climbs. And crag development here is off the charts right now with new routes being put up all the time. Check out Vermont’s one and only climbing guide Tough Schist: Rock Climbing in Northern Vermont and its partner website www.vermontrock.com for info on the newest climbs. If you are looking for variety and a mix of sport and trad close to town, Bolton is the spot.
1. Lower West, Bolton
This little gem is Bolton’s most popular and easily-accessible climbing locale. There is a super short, super easy approach to the cliff, which offers a nice range of moderate climbs in the 5.6-5.10 range. This area is great for trad, and many of the climbs have bolted anchors with an easy walk around making it prime for top roping. It can get crowded at times, but there is usually something fun to hop on until the climb you want opens up. While there, be sure to try out what may be the area’s most popular climb, Harvest Moon (5.8).
2. Upper West, Bolton
Located right up the road from Lower West, climbers will find Lower West’s larger neighbor, Upper West, another popular climbing spot for locals. With more than 40 climbs ranging from 5.5 to 5.12 and offering heights of 200 feet, there are climbs for all abilities and great views to be had from many of them. Upper West offers a mix of both trad and sport, but not much in the way of top roping. The Rose (5.10a) and the Thorn (5.11a) are two of the area’s most classic crack climbs not to be missed. There is also a ton of great bouldering off the approach before reaching the base of the crag.
3. 82 Crag, Bolton
Named for the spray-painted 82 on the cliff’s face that is visible from the area’s only highway, 82 Crag offers more than 20 climbs ranging from 5.6 to 5.13. Many of the climbs have bolts on them, but some gear is still necessary on most. There are some great 5.9 and 5.10 face climbs and even a few more difficult 5.12 routes. It’s a bit of a hike in but well worth the effort. Please note, there have been some issues with landowners recently regarding climbers hiking in on their properties, so please stick to the Katzman Trail, the authorized approach, noted in the climbing guide.
4. The Quarry, Bolton
This very easily accessible crag resides just minutes off of Bolton’s main drag, Route 2. The Quarry is a small, multilevel crag with quirky, primarily sport, climbs that will give your mind and body a workout. Even the 5.7s and 5.8s keep you thinking the whole way up. It offers around 20 climbs ranging from 5.5 to 5.12 with the majority of climbs in the 5.9 to 5.11 range. The rock here is very chossy, so be sure to wear a helmet and stay on already developed routes. The lower level of the Quarry is home to the popular Cat’s Ass Wall known for its short but stout routes offering one 5.8 and five other climbs at or above 5.10c.
5. Smuggler’s Notch, Stowe
The only area in this top five list outside of Bolton, Smuggler’s Notch, or as the locals call it, Smuggs, has the best bouldering in the area. Situated on Route 108 between the towns of Stowe and Jeffersonville, Smuggs offers not only great bouldering, but amazing scenery of the surrounding mountains as well. There are around 125 problems offering a wide variety of difficulty levels, making it a perfect spot for both beginner and seasoned boulderers alike. Because of its location, the bouldering area can get pretty packed with tourists, but there is plenty of stuff to play around on and shouldn’t be a concern. There is also a good deal of technical rock climbing throughout Smuggs, but these climbs are geared more toward the adventurous and experienced climber rather than the beginner.
Please note that it’s currently black fly season in the Northeast, and the bugs can be brutal. Be sure to bring your bug spray.